Philippians 2:5-11 The Bible says that our manner of life is to be worthy of the Gospel of Christ and so the goal of our Christian life here on earth is to grow in Christ-likeness. Growth in Christ-likeness is not about a list of rules to follow or things to avoid.
But rather, Christ-likeness it is a mindset—a way of thinking about ourselves and others that looks like Jesus. The Bible says that we are not to look only to our own interests but also to the interests of others—that in humility we are to count others more significant than ourselves.
“Humility” is one of those virtues like “love” that is hard to describe—especially in our world where these things get twisted out of shape into something that is unrecognizable as humility or love—or even something ugly.
We know about false humility that denies the real gifts that God has given us. We know about a humility that is really just a mask to hide our bragging on ourselves. We know about a love that is really not for the good of others but a feeling that meets my emotional needs.
It takes God to tell us the truth about love and humility. The bible says that: This is love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave us his Son. And the Bible says that this is what humility is:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…
When it comes to how we are to live—in love and humility--we are not left to our own devices to discover what God is looking for from us—we are not left to the false definitions of the unbelieving world—instead, we are directed to Jesus Christ.
When God calls us to lives of humility he points us to his Son Jesus and says this is what I’m talking about: my Son Jesus, who shares my divine nature, did not hold onto glory and honor for himself--but for your sake, for your salvation, he laid it aside. The Bible says that Jesus:
Made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he did not come as the King of kings and Lord of lords—he did not come as a great conqueror—he did not come with the majesty of almighty God (though he was all of these and more!).
He came in riding on a little grey donkey, his feet hanging almost to the ground--in meekness and humility. So it had been throughout his life.
Jesus took on the flesh of a poor Virgin who would be ridiculed for the story that her baby was born of God—not of sin. He lived in obscurity. He labored with his hands. He spent his life helping those around him. He said of himself: I came not to be served—but to serve and give my life for others.
And yet the great wonder of this humble man from Galilee is that he is the King of kings -and he is the Lord of lords- and he is true God in human flesh who humbled himself and was born in the likeness of men because we have failed to be the humble, loving men and women that God wants us to be.
We haven’t loved others sacrificially. We haven’t counted others better than ourselves. We haven’t looked to the interests of others. We haven’t had the mind of Christ. And yet that is God’s expectation of us and he promises to punish, in time and eternity, those who do not do his will.
That is why God’s own Son, out of love for us, laid aside the divine glory and honor and majesty (that are truly his own) to do for us what we have not—and cannot—do: live a holy life and suffer God’s punishment on the cross. The Bible says that:
Being found in human form, Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
Throughout his life Jesus would say of himself: I have come to do my Father’s will! I have come to speak my Father’s words! And he did. His life on earth was lived in perfect obedience to his heavenly Father in thought, word, and deed.
He said of himself: I and my Father are one—not just because they shared the same divine nature—but because his life as a man was perfectly united to God.
That perfect life led him into death—even death on the cross. Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one, true and living God---humbly counted you better than himself and looked to your interests ahead of his own and he died in your place—even death on a cross.
Two thousand years after God the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write these very words, we can still hear the stunned amazement in his voice—even death on a cross—the most painful, humiliating, degrading death that can be imagined.
In fact, the Bible says: cursed is everyone hung on a tree---and not only because it was a humiliating, degrading, painful way to die—but because it was a visible sign of being cursed by God—a public display that a crime worthy of death had been committed and the punishment of that crime was put on view for all to see.
That is the death that Jesus suffered—not just painful, not just humiliating—but cursed by God. The Bible says that God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us—that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This was Jesus’ mission: to live the holy life we should have lived and to die the cursed death we should have died so that we can be right in God’s sight.
And that is what he accomplished: our salvation from sin and death. The Bible says that this is the reason that: God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.
We know that 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah promised that the Messiah would be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, and prince of peace. We know that Joseph and Mary were commanded by God to give their baby the name: Jesus—the LORD saves—because he would save us from our sin.
But what does Paul mean when he says that after his death, resurrection and ascension Jesus was given the name that is above every name? It’s because eternity in heaven is possible only through faith in his name. The Bible says:
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Jesus is the name that is above every name because God has declared that there is one way of salvation-- and only one way—and that is to call upon the name of Jesus Christ in faith, trusting in his life, death, and resurrection is our salvation and hope and peace.
The name of Jesus identifies who he is and what is had done: that he is the LORD who saves—that he alone has accomplished the Father’s saving purpose in undoing the effects of sin and death and reconciling us back to our Creator. That is why the Bible says that:
at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Our Lord Jesus Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death—even death on the cross—for us. He made himself nothing—for us. He did not consider equality with God something to be held onto—but he willingly became a servant to us, for our salvation. He is our Savior and Lord and King.
It is to the glory of God the Father that we bend our knee before Jesus and confess his lordship over every part of our lives and yield ourselves in obedience to his holy will.
Our life as Christians is marked by humility and obedience and love for others because the King we serve lived a life of humility and obedience and love for others.
We submit ourselves to God because Jesus did- and we count others better than ourselves because Jesus did- and we take up our cross because Jesus did- and we desire nothing other than to serve our King because Jesus desired to do nothing other than to do his Father’s will.
This is the entire purpose of Christ’s saving work—to re-establish a right relationship between us and God--and we have an opportunity---a day of grace-- right now-- to confess the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done and acknowledge his rightful rule over our lives.
When Christ comes again, all of those who have trusted in him and followed him and obeyed him and acknowledged his rightful rule over their lives will kneel before him in joy and thankfulness for all that he has done and acclaim as their Savior and Lord.
That day holds no fear for us because of this day of grace when we humble ourselves before Jesus in faith and obedience and commit ourselves to lives of humility and love like his. Amen.